It’s a bit of a stereotype that men can have a hard time opening up about their feelings, but everyone struggles sometimes. Looking after our mental wellbeing is crucial – whether that’s reaching out to a mate, seeking professional help, or getting in an endorphin boost.
We asked male mental health ambassadors to share the things that have made a difference to their mental wellbeing.
“A few things over the last couple of years have really made a difference for me. One is going to the gym more regularly – it sounds so simple, but it gives you a bit of time out of the day to just look after yourself and have a break from everything else. Plus, it just feels good knowing you’re getting healthier and making a positive change,” says Shyam Dattani, co-founder of All Men Cry – a new fashion brand raising awareness of male mental health.
“I also started playing golf with my dad. This has really surprised me, as I never thought a golf course was somewhere I’d want to be. But it’s a couple of hours of complete tranquillity (coupled with some terrible shots from me!). You’re outside, you’re having a good walk, you’re doing a sport, and although you wouldn’t always know it from the outside, golf courses are real pockets of green space and nature.
“Spending time with my dad this way has been great, too. I booked us a course of six lessons together – it’s great for him as he’s retired, and it means I get to spend time with him, doing an activity we’re both enjoying. And when you’re playing a round of golf, you get to really talk in a way that’s not rushed – because you’ve got 18 holes of conversation to fill,” says Mr Dattani.
Reach out and talk about it
“In my professional life, things had been going incredibly well. I was made MD of an amazing festival business before I turned 30, and fortunately had been able to buy my own house. Yet after a pretty rough personal period, I realised I was really unhappy,” says Craig Mathie, events manager.
“I had struggled with my sexuality for over a decade, and found it hard to adjust to living outside of the ‘normal’ societal framework of a wife and children – I hated something about myself.
“When the sadness was at its worst, I knew I needed some expert help, and decided to see a professional counsellor. Facing up to all this and having counselling was undoubtedly the most challenging experience of my life, but also the most rewarding.
“It made me realise – no matter how well your life appears to be or how successful you are, everyone has personal challenges – and trying to put on a brave face or just ‘man up’ is without a doubt the worse thing we can do. I believe firmly that by talking about our experiences and being open with the troubles we face, we can make real change in our community,” says Mr Mathie.
Take a break from electronics
“My mental health is crucial to my performance – it’s another training tool for me, the same as being in a gym. And for me, breaks from social media, breaks away from my phone, and time being in the moment with those closest to me are all crucial for my mental health,” says Ali Jawad, British Paralympic powerlifter.
“One of the hardest things to do in this high-paced, technology-driven world is maintain personal mental health. There are so many filters, Photoshopped images, and pressure to be better, richer, fitter, slimmer – to be more beautiful, and show the world. It’s virtually impossible to properly switch off.
“But it’s like a car – if you leave a car running non-stop, the engine will break, you will run out of fuel, and the car becomes completely useless. Our mental health is the same. If you don’t switch off, if you don’t look after yourself, you will run out of fuel and break. So my advice would be: take breaks from social media, put your phone down when you’re with people, stop judging your life on what you see on the internet, and no emails in bed – that’s your safe space for sleep and relaxing,” says Mr Jawad.
Talk to a therapist
“The issue that’s affected me most is social anxiety. Some people believe this is simply a fear of social situations, but in reality, it’s much more. When it goes unchecked, social anxiety can infiltrate even the most everyday tasks, such as ordering a meal at McDonald’s, speaking in a public place, or sending a text. It’s an intense fear coupled with an overactive imagination, causing you to continuously ruminate about everything that could possibly go wrong at any given moment,” says Marco Ricci, founder of Talking Mental Health.
“To help, I went for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), where the most valuable advice I received was to record my thoughts. Initially I was sceptical, feeling silly to be writing down all the ways a situation could pan out – but it’s helped me tremendously. I would list my predictions and then, once I came back from whatever event I had been to, I would revisit the thoughts again. I can safely say that in 99.9 per cent of cases, my predictions were at complete odds with reality – and I had the physical evidence to prove it.
“With more and more evidence, came more and more confidence, and eventually I was able to stop using the technique. Now, when thoughts of public embarrassment or failure enter my mind, I have the confidence to mentally subdue them before I overthink them.”
Write a gratitude list
“A few years ago, a lot of huge changes came into my life in rapid succession. This included my boss at work leaving, pushing me into a position of responsibility I had never wanted or prepared for. Then my father died suddenly, providing me with another helping of responsibility, with a side order of grief,” says Charlie Inman, creative director of Mindshine app – the ‘mental health coach in your pocket’.
“Luckily, I had recently started a gratitude practice – the simple ritual of writing a list every morning of all the things you have to be thankful for in life. Thinking of things can be tricky at first, but like any sort of exercise, you get better with practice. After a few weeks, filling a page came pretty easily. I also got better at noticing things to be thankful for, and seeing opportunities for celebration. It not only took my mind off my worries, but taught me to reframe them into opportunities for growth,” says Mr Inman.
“This allowed me to see what happened to me as a way to write my story the way I wanted. I didn’t get to control what happened to me, but I got to decide how I wanted to react to it. I now have a life I never would have had without my gratitude practice. I thank it for the decision to go for a completely different job – working for Mindshine – which I love, for my two kids and girlfriend, and for allowing me to aim myself at the good I see in life, rather than worry about the bad.”
– With PA
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